Is Suffering Real?

I met the most amazing woman this month.  Lisa (and her husband) are missionaries with CRU (formerly Campus Crusade).   She's got an amazing story of coming out of Mormonism and later, finding God.  She's writing a book about it and I can't wait for it to come out next year.  She's also another adoptive mother.  Our adoption stories have so many parallels.  I only had an hour or so to get to know her but I felt we could've talked into the night.

Lisa was in town speaking at a women's conference about Jesus inviting us into "the dance."  I wish I had been there.  Afterwards, a woman approached her and in their conversation the woman said, "I don't believe suffering is real.  I think it's all in your mind."  I was shocked.

I immediately thought of my recent health crisis.  But also, of my friend, Candi, who lost her husband suddenly to a heart attack, in his early 40's.  To my friend, M., who's child has been a struggle from day one and keeps M. awake on on her knees every night that her child doesn't come home.  To my friend, Christine, who's husband was just diagnosed with melanoma.  To my friends who are struggling to stay married.  To my friend who is job searching, again.  

All these people came rushing to my mind, like a flood.  Is their suffering not real?

I've been mulling this over for two weeks.  On the one hand, I think our response to suffering is very important.  We can allow our circumstance to distract us from the hope and grace God provides in the midst of our suffering.  Or we can choose to see the beauty in the details and thank God for each tiny victory.  We can choose to suck the life out of those who are supporting us or we can minister to them even as they minister to us.  There are so many facets to these contrasts.

But I don't think that's what she meant.  I think she truly believes there is no such thing as suffering.  And that makes me sad.  Because, as I've discussed before,  in our suffering or trial, we become more sensitive to God's character.  To our finiteness and inabilities in contrast to his supremacy and infinite ability to handle our big scary circumstances.  Our suffering forces us to slow down and see things as they truly are, as they always are: God, in control.  Us, not.

What do you think?  Am I missing something?  Is suffering merely our response to life?